A Star Turned Into A Black Hole Before Hubble’s Very Eyes

When a massive star expends its fuel, its core collapses into a dense object and sends the rest of its gas outward in an event called a supernova. What’s left is mostly neutron stars or black holes. And now, Hubble seems to have seen a supernova blink out — suggesting it captured the moment when a black hole took over.

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While some supernova events are explosive and leave clouds of debris for thousands of years (aka nebula) like SN 1054, the star in question seems to have begun to explode and then had all its gas sucked right back into the black hole at the center. This can happen when the core collapse of the star is especially massive. Rather than exploding, the gas collapses directly into the core of the star.


Only a few of these so called “massive fails” (yes, that’s what they’re calling them) have been spotted, so astronomers are cautious about the results. But this particular star, located in the galaxy NGC 6946, was bright enough to see from 22 million light years away and faded in an instant, suggesting a massive stellar-mass black hole was the driving culprit.

he American space agency NASA periodically shares spellbinding images of outer space, revealing ethereal and unseen sights in vivid and dreamy detail. On Friday, the agency shared previously unseen views of the NGC 6946 galaxy, better known as the ‘Fireworks Galaxy’, which witnesses frequent volatile supernovae that lends to the illusion of a fireworks display. The image shows a supernovae from the NGC 6946, one of ten observed in the galaxy, according to NASA. In comparison to NGC 6946, the Milky Way averages just one to two supernova events per century, the agency said in a statement.

The galaxy resides 25.2 million light-years away, along the border of the northern constellations of Cepheus and Cygnus (The Swan). The stunning images were captured by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, and shows the stars, spiral arms and other environments of NGC 6946 in phenomenal detail. It was captured by a pair ESA/Hubble & NASA researchers, A Leroy and KS Long, respectively.In the past century, eight supernovas have been observed to explode in the arms of this galaxy, called NGC 6946. Image: NASA/CXC/MSSL/R.Soria et al/AURA/Gemini OBs

In the past century, eight supernovas have been observed to explode in the arms of this galaxy, called NGC 6946. Image: NASA/CXC/MSSL/R.Soria et al/AURA/Gemini OBs

According to NASA, star gazers are able to marvel at NGC 6946 since it is a face-on galaxy, which means that observers see it facing them at all times. If the galaxy can be seen from the side, then it is known as an edge-on galaxy. The Fireworks Galaxy is an intermediate spiral galaxy, which means the structure of NGC 6946 sits between a full spiral and a barred spiral galaxy, with just a slight bar at its center.

NGC 6946 is also a starburst galaxy, which means that it undergoes an exceptionally high rate of star formation. The NASA Chandra Observatory has revealed three of oldest supernovas ever detected in X-rays of the galaxy.